Summer is almost here and as I was thinking about the summers of my childhood, I don’t remember if my parents were present or not. It seems like I may have seen them when school let out and then again when it was time for school to start. I’m exaggerating but my brother and I spent most of our time outside with friends and neighbor kids exploring spaces, tinkering with found objects, and spending time together.

Once, we made stilts with 2 x 4’s we had in the garage. Another summer, my dad gave us leftover bubble gum from the vending machines he serviced as a summer job. We set up our picnic table and sold it (at 50% discount) to other kids. It seemed like all we did was “hang out” but now I know that we were doing STEM!

We might as well been in school – we were learning science, technology, engineering, and math! No wonder our parents let us “play” all summer. My accidental STEM experiences remind me that everything old is new again.

We now (once again) recognize the importance of “play” in the lives of children. Many of the character building skills (negotiation, fair play, honesty) are worked out on the baseball field, while jumping rope, or while working on a project together.

I recently read an article about out of school time programs. It mentioned that “21st century learning priorities such as STEM/STEAM and co-created, youthvoice-driven programs are critical.” That sounded familiar. The article went on to state, “The 4 C’s of 21st Century learning for libraries are Creativity, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Communication.

By building these into STEM programming, public library programs are positioned to meet the changing needs of our country’s youth.”

Our current world is decidedly different than the 1960s version I played in. For all the necessary reasons and precautions kids’ summers are more structured and supervised. Skills once learned more organically, are now facilitated by play dates, summer camps, and other educational opportunities.

The article I referred to previously spoke convincingly about the need for out-of-school time STEM programs and the need to encourage deeper thinking in ways such as questioning and posing problems, thinking flexibly, taking responsible risks, striving for accuracy and precision as well as 11 more Habits of Mind.

Your local library is poised to provide rich opportunities for STEM and STEAM experiences and to offer diverse objects and materials for learning such as telescopes, microscopes, Osmos, board games, and so much more.

Our summer reading program will feature four STEAM-based “camps” with programs and activities around the topics of STEM, art, space, and dinosaurs. Registration will begin May 28. More
details will be coming soon.

Once again, we are looking for teen volunteers (12–18-year-olds) to help with our summer reading
program. If your student is interested in helping with the program, which runs from May 28 – July 30, go
to our website at:

To be considered, your student must complete the volunteer packet by May 28.

This article first appeared in the O’Fallon Weekly.

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